Session 2.2 - Questioning
1 Review of follow-up activities from last session
If you are running a professional learning programme which follows these sessions in sequence, then you should do the review of follow-up activities relating to the previous session (Introduction to whole class dialogue and effective questioning). The 'review of follow-up activities' for that session is available here, and also shown below in the session text. However, if you are following selected sessions in a different order, then you should use the reflection appropriate to the previous session you did.
The review of the follow-up activities for this session (to be done at the start of the next session) is available here.
- Did you try the magic microphone activity? How did the pupils respond to the activity? Share examples of easy questions that you asked with the other participants.
- Did you try creating a story with the pupils? What were the challenges?
- Which features of creating a supportive learning environment did you try during the week? Did you notice any changes in pupils’ responses as a result of the new features? Remember that creating a supportive environment is not a one-off activity. It should be the norm in an interactive classroom.
- Using ICT: How did the search for resources go? Were you able to download images?
Questioning, offering opportunities for classroom talk, and listening to learner responses are an essential part of interactive teaching. They help teachers to determine
- what learners understand,
- what they misunderstand, and
- what they are actually learning.
3 Reflecting on current questioning practice
The idea behind this activity is to make the need for this session explicit.
You will need mini-blackboards and something for display (blackboard/flipchart).
Choose some topics that participants are teaching this week (from the curriculum), and display the topics (on blackboard or flipchart). Some examples are:
- the importance of water(Relates to Index for Inclusion, C1.2 ),
- living together(Relates to Index for Inclusion, C1.13 ),
- transport(Relates to Index for Inclusion, C1.5 ),
- types of fertilizers (organic and inorganic) and their advantages or disadvantages(Relates to Index for Inclusion, C1.1 ), e.g.
- uses of different parts of a plant(Relates to Index for Inclusion, C1.8 ), and
- health(Relates to Index for Inclusion, C1.6 ).
Same-task group work (5 min) in pairs: Coming up with some questions. Choose a topic from the board. Write a list of up to five questions on mini-blackboards or paper that you normally ask/would ask the pupils in class?
Allow only about 3-5 minutes for this activity so that spontaneous questions are recorded.
After 3-5 minutes, explain what open and closed questions are (see background reading below) and ask the whole group for a couple of example questions of each type for illustration. Write these examples (no more than two of each question type) on the blackboard or flipchart for reference during the game, or ask a volunteer participant to do so. When you are sure that participants have got the idea of the differences between the question types proceed with the game.
During the game, ensure that participants do not feel less motivated if their questions are more closed or surface type. To ensure this:
- Refrain from judging questions. Record/discuss questions factually without expressing any emotion.
- Mention that all types of questions have value and can be used for different purposes. Closed and surface questions are also important to some extent.
- Maintain positive body language by listening attentively.
Before the session, prepare the workshop room by marking OPEN on one side of the room and CLOSED on the other side. To keep it simple, draw a line on the floor with chalk and write OPEN and CLOSED!
To start the game, ask participants to look at the first question (on their respective lists), work out whether it is open or closed and move to the corresponding side of the room. When participants have categorised their first question, take a few examples from each side of the room for clarification that they have been correctly categorised. Participants move on to the second question on their list and categorise it in the same way.
Continue to play the game for five minutes, clarifying that questions have been correctly categorised after each new move, taking examples from different participants each time.
Game (5 min) on open and closed questions. The facilitator will ask you to categorise the questions on your list, one at a time, as open or closed and to move to the corresponding side of the room. Work through your questions one at a time and categorise them as closed or open when asked to do so. For each question, move to the side of the room marked OPEN if that question is open or to the side marked CLOSED if that question is closed. Be prepared to explain your rationale to the rest of the group.
Make this activity interesting by asking participants to run to the appropriate side of the room (OPEN or CLOSED) at the sound of a clap and ask the participant who gets there first to clap when it is time to move again after considering the second question, and so on.
4 Reading about open and closed questions
5 Collecting open questions with Etherpad
ICT activity (15 min): Introduction to Etherpad. You have been doing your typing practice for a while, and this will help you now. We are going to use a collaborative writing activity to make note of the open questions defined in the previous activity. The facilitator will now introduce you to Etherpad. Work in small groups (one group per computer), and enter your open questions only (from your mini whiteboard/black board) into Etherpad.
Introduce participants to Etherpad (or another collaborative writing application), and get participants to write open questions from the previous activity.
Throughout this session, make a note of open questions: We will use those later when planning an activity.
To introduce Etherpad, you can use ideas from here: Group chat with messenger or collaborative writing. Let participants observe how words appear on all screens simultaneously. Perhaps you have some participants writing, while others go round and observe. Then swap who writes and who observes. Make sure that all participants get the idea.
6 Questioning our questions
Whole class dialogue (10 min): Discussion of the questions collected on Etherpad. Now look at the questions we have collected. What makes these questions open rather than closed? What other ways can we classify them?
Draw attention to or hand out questions you can ask and incorporate these into the discussion (see end of this session).
Encourage participants to use this resource for planning their activity (see below) and as ready reference during teaching (by printing them on cards).
Refer to open and closed questions if you get stuck.
Reading (20 min) questioning the questions. Read pages 2 and 3 of the "Questioning the Questions" handout ( (info)).
- What was your most important learning from the handout?
- Which points from page 3 are you already practising during your lessons?
- Which points can you immediately carry out?
- Which points might need some more preparation?
- What other points would you like to include in this document?
Allow at least 15-20 minutes for the reading. Proceed from reading to discussion only if most participants are ready. This will show that you are respecting the participants’ pace, something that they could follow in their classroom. Participants who have read sooner than others can be asked to think of other points about "questioning and handling responses" that they would want to include in this handout.
Reinforce some learning from previous sessions during the discussion, such as use of props and use of rules. What about ‘no hands up’ (point 8 on p.3); is it a useful technique?
Discuss points 1 and 3 only if you think there is less time. It is important that participants cover the material on pages 2 and 3 of the document during the workshop. You may wish to use the following activity as an alternative to individual reading:
Alternative activity for covering the information on page 3:
There are 12 (not 14 as it appears) short points for participants to get their head around. These could be divided up amongst the group, so one point each or one between two depending on the group size. Participants should read and understand their point, perhaps coming up with an example to help clarify it to the rest of the group. After allowing participants a few minutes to understand their point, ask them in turn to stand up and explain it to the rest of the group. They should present their point in their own words and not just read from the document. By the end of this activity the participants will have verbally presented the contents of page 3 of the document in a way that makes the material easily accessible and may make it easier to remember.
7 Video on crime writing
Observing, thinking, reflecting (10 min): Video on crime writing. Watch the video in which an English teacher is introducing the crime-writing genre to 12- to 13-year-old pupils in a UK classroom. The lesson prepares them for writing their own crime story. The situation mentioned on the board is “An abandoned briefcase has been handed in to police. What could the content reveal about the owner?”. The clip illustrates teacher questioning and handling responses for encouraging pupils to consider alternatives.
Suggested questions for reflection:
- What did you notice about the teacher’s questions in this clip?
- Which questions elicited multiple responses or could have done?
- How did the teacher handle multiple responses?
- How would you improve the teacher’s questions?
- What would you do differently while handling multiple responses?
8 Planning a questioning activity
Different-tasks group work (15 min): Planning in pairs for an activity with open ended questions. In the activity template, plan for questioning as part of a lesson that you will teach in the coming week. Find some relevant images that you can use to base your questions around and list some open and deep questions to ask in the class in order to challenge students and get them thinking. Try out some of the points mentioned in page 3 of the handout. Record specific questions on the template.
Ask participants to focus on the questioning part of the activity. Therefore ask participants to record on the template:
- What images they will use - What will they be used for? What is/are the purpose(s)?
- Questions to start the lesson?
- Questions while pupils are looking at the pictures? Clear explanation of task.
- Questions after looking at the pictures?
- Questions about pupils' thoughts that relate to objectives of the lesson?
- Questions that summarize pupils' learning?
For example, if the topic is clean water, participants can record:
- Images that they will use e.g. sources of water that show clean and unclean water.
- Questions to start such as, look at the pictures and identify sources that are safe for drinking.
- Questions while pupils are looking at pictures such as, why is water from this source safe? How does the water get contaminated?
- Questions at the end such as, what can we do in our homes to ensure that the water we drink is clean? What are the effects of drinking unclean water?
They can complete the remaining plan later.
9 ICT practice: Different-tasks group work with ICT and activity planning
Different-tasks group work (20 min) using images for questioning. In this part of the session, work in small groups to discuss how you can use images for questioning. Find and download Creative Commons images from the internet (c.f. earlier session), either to use individually, or as part of the slideshow in OpenOffice Impress. You can also look at the introduction to slideshows with Open Office to remind yourself.
Plan how to use images in the classroom with your students, in a questioning activity using images (e.g. images in a slideshow, e.g. a sequencing activity or using/rearranging images to tell a story around which your questions are formed). Also remember to develop your typing practice, see typing practice with students.
10 Connecting with overarching goals of the programme
Open space (10 min). It's now time for the "open space", that gives you an opportunity to discuss issues that have arisen, and to relate those to the broader context of the programme. Do not just gloss over this section, but make time to raise issues, and probe the progress that you are making. You could use this space to:
- Remind yourselves of the of the Most Significant Change Technique, and e.g. collect more of your stories.
- Discuss your assessment portfolios: Is there anything that you are unsure about? Is it going well? What could be done better?
- Check on the work with the classroom assistants: Is this going well? Are there any tensions? Any observations or tips you can share?
- Reviewing individual ICT practise (such as typing practise).
- If you are preparing a presentation for other teachers, you could work on the presentation (about what you have been learning, stories emerging from MSC).
- Remind those who are doing audio diaries, to upload them.
- You could discuss any other issues that have arisen.
You will find notes and summaries of various techniques and concepts on our reference page, and you might want to refer to those for clarification during this activity if needed.
11 Follow-up activities
Part A: Use your questioning activity. Teach a lesson with this activity and try out the questions that you have planned. Record any questions that you generated without planning (as best you can!)
Part B: Try out Geogebra with your class. Also see whether you can continue carousel-style groupwork for typing practice.
Part C: Reading. Read p. 6 of the VVOB handout, section on “handling answers”. Think about how you will handle/respond to the multiple answers to your questions (that you just planned). Record your ideas on the activity template sheet.
Remind participants to bring the VVOB handout for the next session.
In the next session, these follow-up activities will be reviewed. If you are using this session on its own, you can have a look at the review of follow-up activities here.
You can print this content on a separate sheet here: OER4Schools/Questions you can ask.
You can print this content on a separate sheet here: OER4Schools/Open and closed questions.
At the end of each session, we provide an overview of the activities in this session, together with their suggested timings. Although this appears at the end of the session (for technical reasons), you should keep an eye on this throughout the session, to make sure that you are pacing the workshop session appropriately!
Total time: 130 (min)
Activities in this session:
- Same-task group work (5 min) in pairs: Coming up with some questions.
- Observing, thinking, reflecting (5 min) Facilitator talk on open and close questions.
- Game (5 min) on open and closed questions.
- Whole class dialogue (5 min): Reflecting on current practice.
- Observing, thinking, reflecting (5 min): Reading about open and closed questions.
- ICT activity (15 min): Introduction to Etherpad.
- Whole class dialogue (10 min): Discussion of the questions collected on Etherpad.
- Reading (20 min) questioning the questions.
- Observing, thinking, reflecting (10 min): Video on crime writing.
- Different-tasks group work (15 min): Planning in pairs for an activity with open ended questions.
- Different-tasks group work (20 min) using images for questioning.
- Open space(10 min).
- Agreeing follow-up activities(5 min).
If you have printed this session for offline use, you may also need to download the following assets: